The Gift of Enough

Sometimes I do the torturous math and think that if we had had a child soon after we started trying, he/she would be a preschooler. And sometimes I think that maybe we’d have had another one by now, too. I guess I aspired to be a mom with kids close in age, and voluntarily participate in the (observed) crazy that goes along with that, especially on Christmas morning.

More children, more gifts, bigger house, more shoes, more socks, more laundry, more…

But my life years not just later but apart from those possibilities is, from a bird’s eye view, empty.

Our Christmas table has four place settings, two more than it usually does. Actually, four more than it usually does since Aaron and I generally sit at the counter on stools to eat almost every meal.

After our Christmas Eve meal and time with friends yesterday, our sink was full of coffee mugs and wine glasses… with more than there usually are. After opening gifts from each other and then with friends, our tree stands alone in its simple glory: white lights, red ribbon, and matching ornaments, not to be outshone by a plethora of gifts below.

It can be anxiety- or depression-inducing to think of all the ways that our life is not enough, but I’m here to tell you (and most importantly myself) after years of infertility and a whole (blessed) year of therapy (thank God), this is all enough.

My one now-dirty coffee mug lovingly embracing my second cup of coffee is enough. Our house, quiet though it is on Christmas morning, is enough. My artificial pre-lit tree enthroned by a beautiful sunrise is enough. Our small Christmas Eve and Christmas Day gatherings are enough. Our simple yet rich meal today will be enough. My husband and I are enough. I (and my empty womb) are enough.

Last night at the candlelight service, our pastor preached on how Jesus met people where they were. That Jesus’ birth in a manger was announced to the shepherds because they would know to find a manger in a stable. That the wisemen were given a star because with their knowledge and wisdom of the cosmos they would be able to find Jesus.

And on this quiet Christmas morning with just my sleeping husband and dog upstairs, Jesus has met me where I’m at, and that’s enough.

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February 26 | Mystery

Mystery

Mystery in life is one thing that brings me peace. There are just some things we, even as humans, cannot understand or explain.

This used to drive me crazy. If we have science, why can’t we explain everything? We should be able to by this point in mankind’s existence. Now that I’m older and wiser (?), I find solace in the fact that not everything needs an explanation.

The trick is accepting that.

“Cease striving and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 (NASB)

That’s really all we need to know, that God is God. He is I Am. He is eternal and all-knowing, and we are not.

Even through the couple of years in college where I was questioning how to couple my faith with science, I never let go of that fact. Even during my intellectual strife, I had “I Am” in the back of my mind.

One thing I still struggle with is the saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” I don’t know if this is true. It’s really not comforting when you’re the one grieving. It’s probably the last thing you want to hear.

Maybe a better alternative would be, “I know you’re hurting right now, and we don’t know why this happened. Maybe one day we will know, or maybe we never will.”

Something I’ve been praying for lately is not for a specific outcome to my struggle. So many people want to pray for specific things, for us to have a baby. I mean, who would pray for us not to have a baby? But really, what I need in this time is peace and a continued trust in what God is doing.

I don’t need to strive to find all the answers, and I have limitations for what I want to put myself, and us, through, and I’ve reached those. So I’ll make peace with the mystery.

February 24 | Wrestle

Wrestle

Every day on the Alive Now site, there’s a prompt. Usually I just write what comes to mind, but today I’ll answer the prompt in light of the word for today: “What is the prayer of your heart today?”

God,

I’m sorry for wrestling, for undermining your sovereignty in my life. Each day I see new mercy that you give for my shortcomings. You give grace every day, and some days I’m able to receive it. Other days I’m not, whether it be my own pride, my anxiousness, or even my unwillingness to receive it.

I’m sorry for wrestling against the work you’re trying to do. I pray for patience, and you give me opportunities to practice patience, and I complain. I pray for the ability to submit to my husband, and you give me opportunities to do this, and yet I complain.

Jesus, I want to be like you. I don’t want to wrestle with the will of my Father, but instead, I want to graciously complete it. I don’t want to wrestle with the minutiae of life, but I’d rather see the big picture. There’s more to life than hours worked, students taught, floors cleaned, and groceries purchased. Help me see beyond the insignificant into the extraordinary.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Running update.

I haven’t posted here about my running in a really long time. I’ve posted about running getting me through infertility, but I think this was the last real post about training. We (my husband and I) had signed up for the IMS Arizona Marathon because it was super cheap, and relatively close to where we used to live. Well, Valentine’s Day weekend came and went without us running that race, mostly because we live in Maryland now. So there’s that.

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View from a neighborhood run

I decided after the move that I needed to get back into training. For my body, for my mind, for fun. I don’t want this to be a post about infertility because honestly I’m sick of talking and thinking about it, but I gained 25 lbs in the past two years due to stress, taking time off of hard workouts, overeating, etc. I was starting to wallow… anyone who’s dealt with depression/anxiety knows how this works… and I was close to signing up for therapy again.

But, I’m happy to report that I’m out of my funk, thanks to running and a change of life circumstances, and God. Aaron’s no longer leaving for months on end, or working unexpected nights or 24-hour CQ shifts because now he has a ‘regular’ job. It’s fantastic. And amazing. And I’m so glad we got through the past 6.5 years with the Army for him to have this opportunity. I’m also working, but part time, and really enjoying the time it allows me to have to clean, cook, take care of things, but also to use my ESOL expertise. At first, moving to Maryland in the middle of the academic year was not my first choice, but it’s turned out to be a wonderful decision.

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Trails at Susquehanna State Park

So, with all that said, I’m running the Maryland Half Marathon in May. Not officially, as I haven’t signed up yet, but it’s on my calendar. Last week was week 3 of training, I think, and I ran 15 miles total. A Yasso 800’s workout, just a plain old run, and a long run of 6 miles. We bought new shoes this weekend so hopefully that’ll help some of the stiffness I’ve had in the first couple miles of my runs. Overall, I’ve been happy with my paces and my motivation to do each run. And the endorphins, you can’t forget the endorphins!

After the half, I’d like to train for a fall marathon, and then set my sights on a spring 50K. I’ve had this goal for most of my 20’s to do a 31-mile (50K) race before my 31st birthday, which will be next April. Barring injury or other crazy life circumstances, I don’t see why that can’t happen. And the Mid-Atlantic area is full of wonderful races to choose from.

Fighting fire with fire.

How do you overcome depression and anxiety, let alone when your husband is deployed? It’s not easy, and if you’re feeling depressed or anxious, so much that it’s starting to affect your every day life, you need to take it seriously. Maybe you’re like me and have dealt with mild or situational depression or anxiety in your life, and it comes and goes depending on your health and stressors at that particular time.

For me, it most recently hit me during my trip home. I have been treated in the past for depression/anxiety, both with therapy and meds. Both were needed at the time and both helped me a lot. Let me say this: there is absolutely no shame in finding help. This is the first time I have considered going back to the doctor since I stopped meds and therapy in 2008. I have a lot of situational stressors going on, so as of right now I’m going to do what I can to control it with lifestyle changes and reevaluate after my husband returns (soon!!!!). By that time, many of the stressors will be gone so I will probably not have to seek professional help. I have dealt with this since I was in junior high, so I know myself and my body very well.

The point of this post is to give some tips to help you if you’re dealing with mild depression or anxiety. I am not a mental health professional by any means; I’m a woman who has a lot of experience with these illnesses and have found little things to do in my life that help me cope without continued therapy and meds.

How do you know if you’re dealing with these illnesses? There are many online resources such as questionnaires that can informally assess your current mental state. If you choose to see a doctor or therapist, they’ll go over your personal and family medical history during your first visit. Be honest; no one is there to judge you. I have mental illness on both sides of my family, so that tipped my doctor off that I might need more than just cognitive behavioral therapy. Biology is hereditary.

1. Take a deep breath and don’t take yourself so seriously. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just want to cry because it seems that everything is going wrong all at once. Remember that you’re not the only one going through this and that you won’t feel like this forever. Mentally step away from the situation.

2. Make your home your sanctuary. It’s really important that when you come home from work or a night out that your home is comfortable and somewhere you can relax. One way I do this is to make sure the house is cleaned on a regular basis. Ask my husband; I can’t relax unless things are picked up and dishes are done. Buy some candles and light them when you get home. Buy pretty towels for the bathroom. It may sound silly, but little things help.

3. Give yourself “me” time. The amount of “me” time depends on whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, but since I’m the former, I need “me” time to recharge and feel refreshed. I know this all too well, so I try not to plan too many things with friends on a weekly basis. At the most, I’ll reply with a “maybe” if I’m just not sure about doing a particular activity. And it’s okay to say “no”! The night my husband deployed, I had just started final exams; I left my final early to see him off. That night I relaxed with a hot bath and a glass of wine. I made that time for myself and it made the first night alone that much easier.

4. Get a pet. My pit bull mix Missy is my companion when my husband’s not home. She offers protection and companionship, and she’s not too shabby of a running partner either! Of course, pets come with vet and boarding bills, but this time apart from my husband has showed me that it’s worth it!

5. Visit friends and family, or have them visit you. I have been blessed to have both my sisters visit at different times (and one with her new baby!), and my aunt came right after finals were over and we flew back to Illinois together. I just got back from a two-week visit with family. Visits, whether here or there, help you reconnect with family and friends from “back home” and give you something to break up the duration of the time apart.

6. Develop a few close friendships. We’re not meant to go through life alone. Being far away from family can be difficult, but it is possible to find amazing people to go through life with you wherever you’re stationed. Put yourself out there and meet people. Don’t write people off because you might be stationed somewhere new soon. We need each other. And when you get to know people in your community, you’re not just “passing through” anymore; you’re now a part of that community.

7. Set short and long term goals. This could be goals with a hobby, or goals for school. If you have kids, it could be places to see or things to do with your kids. For me, it’s running. While my husband is away, I train for races. Running keeps me sane, fit, gives me an endorphin rush and time to process things.

8. Lower your expectations. Part of my anxiety stems from things related to time. I’m always 5-10 minutes early, to EVERYTHING. It’s just the way I grew up. But in my 27 years I’ve learned that not everyone is like that. My anxiety also is tipped off when I expect to get somewhere in a certain amount of time, and unexpected traffic or a forgotten errand gets in the way of that. Another thing that gets me is when I expect to chat or Skype with my husband and he’s not available. Just take a breath and stay calm.

There are a million more tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years, but these are the ones that have come to mind recently. Every day down is another day closer to homecoming! You’re going to be stronger than the day you started.

Still long distance

I don’t know what’s happened in my brain in the past couple weeks, but I want long distance running to be a way of life. I want to want to run most days of the week, and get antsy on the rest days. I want to challenge myself. I want to run an ultra.

I have to be crazy, but then that just becomes par for the course, right?? Anyone willing to run anything over 26.2 miles, either on the road or on a trail, has to be a little off-kilter. It’s the mental and physical challenge that draws me in, and the sense of adventure. The training for an ultra is simple: run. Lots and lots of miles.

KISS. Keep it simple, stupid. Tell me to, and I can run lots and lots of miles. I have a harder time following a specific training plan for a specific number of weeks with a specific amount of miles at a specific pace. Anything that requires a treadmill is gonna have to wait, because going to the gym is really not in my repertoire right now. I enjoy the gym, I have to make my workouts work for me, instead of being a slave to them. I have a dog who needs to be run or walked every day, so it’s a win-win for us.

I’ve been dwelling too much on my past experience as a first-time marathoner. That was two years ago. Two. It’s about time that I grieved that wonderful experience of training with an amazing running partner. There are few things that I’ve done or experienced that have topped crossing that finish line, let alone under my goal time. But I can make it happen again, with a new partner (my dog and/or my husband) and new goals.

It pains me that it’s taken me this long to figure out what’s been blocking that part of my brain that wants to run. I made all kinds of excuses. It’s hot here. It’s windy. It’s hard to find a [safe] open road to run on. We’re at 4,000 ft elevation. I have to get up super early to beat the sun. I have to take Missy running before the kids start walking to school so she doesn’t freak out. Excuses…

I’ve tried other fitness programs. And in the end, this is not about me being a certain weight or BMI or whatever other mumbo-jumbo is out there. This is about me preserving my body, saving my sanity, and making my training do the work for me, not the other way around. Running works for me. It’s cheap, it’s portable, it’s easy… just one foot in front of the other. The rest is gravy.

Biscuits and gravy. On a sunny Saturday morning after completing 12 miles I honestly wasn’t sure I’d do or not, and by 9 AM to boot. That’s the first long run on a Saturday morning I’ve done, besides races, since we moved to Texas. So, running and I? We’re still together.. and long distance works for us. It makes the heart grow fonder.

You have not because you ask not

For the past week and a half, I haven’t been able to get this little bit of biblical wisdom out of my head. I didn’t even know what book it was in, but I knew it’d been planted in my heart for a reason. (Now I know it’s James 4:2.)

It’s simple. We’re too afraid to ask God for something big because you know, HE MIGHT SAY NO. Gasp! No way! That’s the worst that could happen???

I want to be bold and ask of the Lord in confidence and faith. I want my life to be more than what it is. A week in the mountains of Honduras was just what I needed… to detox from Facebook, worrying what other people think, being glued to the scale and the television and the bank account. I needed to see things from a different perspective, that there’s a peaceful and bold way to live life that encompasses much more than my living room (which by the way is perfect the way it is; we can’t take fancy furnishings to heaven anyway!).

You have not because you ask not.

Wow. I complain about not having a heart for the nations… when I haven’t even asked. I complain about my laziness and complacency, when I haven’t even asked for it to be taken from me. I complain about silly, dumb, TRITE things that people say on Facebook, when I haven’t even spent time in prayer and Bible study for the day, when those things that people say don’t even matter.

It’s time to live life dramatically, purposefully, peacefully, with no worries or fears. It may sound like a tall order, but I will have because I will ask.